Recipe for Success

We all know there isn’t one single way to succeed. Heck, the definition of the word “succeed” is going to be different for every person you talk to. It’s finding breakthroughs with a challenging horse, or tackling a difficult course in a lesson, or finally getting the dang rain rot to go away altogether. It’s getting ribbons at shows, or it’s building a connection, or it’s getting the confidence to try a new discipline. I could go on endlessly- and for most people I know, success is some blend of many different things that is constantly shifting over time.

So what does success look like to me right now- and what does it not look like?

As someone who loves to compete, part of my success looks like doing well at horse shows. It looks like being able to give my horse a thorough and efficient warmup, setting him up to perform well on course, riding my plan, being bold with some more assertive inside turns, and finding the right balance between softly allowing Frankie to do his job vs. surrounding him and providing him the support he needs to attack the course.

This. This looks like success to me.

Success to me does not look like ribbons. I’ve gotten good ribbons for courses that I rode poorly- I got lucky and my horse bailed me out. I’ve had trips that felt extraordinarily competent- smooth, deliberate, efficient, and incredibly in tune with my horse- where an unlucky rail kept us out of the ribbons. I’ll never be mad about getting a ribbon, but I can walk away from a show without any ribbons and still feel satisfied with our accomplishments.

This round didn’t get a ribbon. Still very very happy with this smug lookin’ beast

Success also looks like a happy horse. I don’t do this sport for a living- I’m an amateur. I do it for fun. For me, a cranky horse is not fun. I consider myself successful when I’m able to provide the care necessary for Frankie to be comfortable in performing his job, which leads to him being happy to go play the game. Success is teaching him the rules of the game and being consistent, so that he is able to confidently navigate the ring. I feel like a total winner when I feel him lock on to a jump and ask to carry me to it.

When he hears the buzzer and asks to go? Joyful. (also I’m never going to stop using this pic sorrynotsorry)

Success looks like individualizing our program to build on Frankie’s strengths, knowing that the skills he needs to develop are not the same as the other horses in the barn, and the way we work on them may not be the same. It’s lots of fitness work because he’s a chunkaroo at heart, it’s hand walks at shows to give him fresh air when he’s stuck in a stall, and it’s getting in his way a little to tell him the right answer when we’re schooling.

It also means getting out of his way a little more sometimes

It does not look like being good at just one thing. Yes, our efforts are focused mainly in the jumper ring- but we enjoy hacking out, we’ve practiced our polish in the equitation ring, and we regularly ride with the hunters to practice nice smooth steady courses. He’s a wonderful show horse, but only because I ask him to be. Part of enjoying our partnership means enjoying different ways of working together.

Overall, success to me means improving our skills as a team so that we can go on adventures together with confidence in our abilities to navigate whatever comes up!

Your turn- what looks like success to you for where you are in your journey right now?


8 thoughts on “Recipe for Success

  1. Amanda C 07/18/2018 / 7:56 am

    Totally agree with all of your points of what success looks like. Mine is much the same. I’ve never understood the “ribbon ho” thing… ribbons don’t really tell you anything except how you stacked up on that particular day against those particular people. Sometimes you really deserve a ribbon and don’t get one. Other days you really don’t deserve one and win. The much more important part is the big picture: overall progress, the mental and physical state of the horse, growth of the rider (whatever that may entail for each person), etc. I mean, sure, winning is fun, I don’t think any of us would argue that, but it doesn’t tell the story. It doesn’t even tell PART of the story. Success is so much more than that.


    • hellomylivia 07/18/2018 / 8:04 am

      Agreed wholeheartedly. I’ve just had so many rides that I was super proud of and felt were a great display of our ability- but we were up against people on ex-GP horses who have been in the division for 5 years. I’m no less proud of my horse for killin’ it just because our competition is steep. And then we’ve gotten a ribbon because other people literally fell off. It was one of our worst rounds.


  2. Stacie Seidman 07/18/2018 / 8:54 am

    Yes, all of that!
    Lol… success for me right now is just keeping these geriatrics alive. But when I’m showing it’s much the same. With Jampy, success was having him feel relaxed and rideable in the ring. WIth Rio it had more to do with me not messing HIM up…
    At the end of the day, feeling accomplished and having a happy healthy horse is what success is for me.


  3. tntibbetts 07/18/2018 / 10:41 am

    I’m in the midst of switching from my 11yo he’s-finally-broke horse to my 6yo mare to show in the hunters. Success looks very different to me now than it did 6 months ago! Success now is about giving her the ride she needs to be happy and relaxed around a course at a horse show. Hopefully by this time next year, success will look like bigger fences and more polish.
    You’re so right about a happy horse. Coco has been a bit of a puzzle for the past year or so to figure out why she was unhappy; was she in pain, does she hate her job, or does she just need some support to figure out what was making her upset. I don’t think we have completely figured it out yet, but she is MUCH happier in her work now and seems to be relaxing into her job as a hunter.
    And ribbons aren’t really on my radar, at least not yet. I don’t ride well enough to think that any ribbon I’ve gotten so far has belonged to me, they all belong to the horse I’m riding as it totes my amateur butt around the ring!


  4. roamingridersite 07/18/2018 / 1:21 pm

    Right now success is having a sound horse! I’m the least competitive person and throw my ribbons away. Well the few I’ve won anyway. To me success is getting off my horse at the end of a ride with both of us happy and sound and wanting to do it again whatever the “it” may be at the moment.


  5. Elizabeth 07/19/2018 / 12:08 pm

    I am in total agreement that success for me is a happy horse and having fun progressing together. Bringing along a young horse is a combination of small successes (learning how to stand still for having one’s bridle path clipped) and big successes (nailing all out canter leads in a ride). I do love to show, but I love taking lessons even more so. Do I joke a lot about being a ribbon ho? You bet. But I do not judge my overall success as a horsewoman based on a ribbon or score. My dressage scoresheets are a valuable piece of feedback but not the be all, end all. I have earned great scores which I am proud of but not necessarily won a great ribbon. But at the end of the day, if my horses are happy and healthy and we are enjoying this journey together, that is what my success looks like.


  6. Rachel - For Want of a Horse 07/26/2018 / 1:38 pm

    I could stare at that first picture all day!! Damn! Just DAMN!!! I like this post because you are right success is different for different people and a single person’s definition may change in any given time. I just did a recap of our show this past weekend and given our ribbons and some of our flubs someone may look at it and think I should be unhappy but it is 4 days later and I still can’t stop smiling. Success for me was two-fold. First, I was successful that I didn’t let my nerves get to me when he stopped or when we crashed through a fence. Second, while we didn’t place well we had the round of our (short) career together! At the beginning of this year I would have told you I was successful if we got X amount of points in each division but now after facing some challenges with Winifred I look for the little victories. I had an old barn mate who would tell people that her motto was “driven by ribbon”. It was evident though how unhappy she always was. It didn’t matter if she had a phenomenal round, if she didn’t win she was pissed. I may not have as many blues on my wall but I know that my life is a happier one!


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